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U-turn over supporters came as bolt from the blue, insists Ulster Council secretary McAvoy 

 

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Mixed messages: Fans at Kilcoo’s clash with Mayobridge

Mixed messages: Fans at Kilcoo’s clash with Mayobridge

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Brian McAvoy

Brian McAvoy

�INPHO/Presseye/Lorcan Doherty

Mixed messages: Fans at Kilcoo’s clash with Mayobridge

Ulster Council secretary Brian McAvoy certainly pulls no punches as he surveys the remainder of the GAA season in the wake of the Republic government's edict to ban spectators from attending games for the next three and a half weeks.

McAvoy, who has been in the vanguard of the provincial governing body's ongoing robust bid to combat the coronavirus, believes that the edict is at odds with other measures taken south of the border.

"To be honest, the immediate ban on spectators was like a bolt out of the blue," stated McAvoy. "Where is the sense in banning fans from attending games while at the same time allowing public houses to stay open for another half-hour? I know publicans have to make a living but when you think that GAA fans have less chance of contracting the coronavirus outdoors when they would be complying with social distancing regulations, it certainly makes you wonder."

Clearly disconcerted by the decision to preclude fans up until September 13 at least and disappointed with its timing, McAvoy is nonetheless anxious to see the Stormont Assembly continue to permit matches north of the border to be played in front of crowds of 400 for the most part.

"The Republic's government took its decision without consulting sporting bodies as far as I am aware," added McAvoy. "We have to live with that."

Suddenly, club and county board administrators have been transported from a position of relative optimism into a chasm of apprehension as a detailed assessment of just what might lie in store is undertaken.

It is coincidental that September 13 is just one day before county squads can resume collective training.

And at this point in time it seems logical to conclude that any decision relating to the provincial and All-Ireland Football Championships in particular will have to be made by early next month at the latest.

Up until last weekend, a crowd limit of 200 including the teams, officials and other relevant personnel had been in vogue down south but when this was terminated on Tuesday it triggered a rethink within the GAA.

As things stand, the various Club Championships are approaching a climax with the live streaming of games helping to boost the income of clubs.

While there is no doubt a tremendous hunger for provincial and All-Ireland action, fans must exercise patience in the hope of seeing top-flight action.

Right from the onset of the pandemic, GAA chiefs have expressed serious misgivings about the possibility of staging major matches behind closed doors yet they may have to come to terms with the fact that the majority of followers would much rather settle for live televised games than no Championship at all.

Belfast Telegraph